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  1. #1
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    Country: Wales

    Default Ultimate & One-off Freestanding Safes

    Hello everyone, here's a subject I've discussed with many people countless times over the years, and thought it'd be a good one to get some discussion going on here with members world-wide.

    Over the years a few of the big safe manufacturers have produced an 'ultimate' bespoke safe for unique circumstances, usually at the request of a large banking institution or private corporation.

    I'm talking free standing safes here, and not 'walk-in' strong rooms or vaults, which have of course been covered many times in other threads.

    By 'ultimate safe' I'm referring to unique one-offs or small-run (2 or 3 units for example) which are constructed differently and above a manufacturers standard production 'high grade' safes. I'm not thinking of the countless so-called 'luxury' safes on the European market, as these are mostly just re-worked 'badge engineered' versions of other manufacturers euro grade models.

    I remember seeing a safe on the net which I think was presented to the Vatican as a gift, for use by the Pope- again from what I could see it was yet another re-worked euro grader made by someone else, fitted with pointless gimmickry and it's 1 or 2 million price tag was meaningless, likewise another euro grader a few years back, (which I still fall off my chair laughing when I think about it) 'styled' like a Bugatti Veyron and actually licensed and endorsed by the company (with an equally ridiculous price tag).

    I'm not thinking of safes with ridiculous paint jobs, any of the so-called luxury models with plush interiors and automatic watch winders, carbon-fibre cladding etc. Also exempt is anything bling- 18K gold S&G combo dials with baguette diamonds set around the bezel (ohh yes- you'd be amazed) aren't what I'm talking here, I'm thinking of ultimate security safes built 100% for all-out protective security and defence.

    I'll start things off with a great candidate for number 1:

    1- 1980s SLS Gem

    This one, for me at least, is undisputable as only 2 were ever made, and both examples were uniquely constructed, and not just based on one of their existing top of the range Bankers Treasury models. They also produced a slightly lesser 'Sapphire' version of which a few more units were made.

    I think both were produced in the mid 1980s, and that one of the Gems was destined for HM the Queen at Buckingham Palace, and the other for private use in the Middle East. The latter example I think ended up at a US dealer and was offered for sale at about $45~$50,000 some years back.

    A truly serious safe of massive construction- although relatively small in terms of overall size, the protective door slab and walls were 8 inches thick, and it featured SLS's usual aluramic (aluminium with ceramic) armour with glass plates and randomly positioned live and dead relockers.

    2- 1929 Chatwood CB Quality

    Here's another of which only 2 were ever made. This one has been briefly covered in a post elsewhere on here, but surprisingly had little reaction. You can see a couple of very rare pictures kindly posted by safeman on his 'Very special Chatwood' thread.

    Produced purely at the unique request of the Commercial Bank of Scotland, ( the CB stands for commercial bank),both were identical and nothing short of monstrous in size and construction. Much larger sized than the SLS Gem, with 10 inch thick door slab and 10 inch walls and a weight of about 7 tons, this beautiful Chatwood is possibly the largest and heaviest free stander ever made?

    Also interesting is despite a door 15 inches thick overall, they didn't give it crane hinges and huge capstan handles 'vault door style', it just had an ordinary brass loop handle, standard hinges and looked pretty similar to one of their early Diamond safes.

    3- Tann Diamond

    This model started as a one-off special commissioned by DeBeers for storage of their most valuable stones at their London HQ. Featuring heavier walls and defences than their Super Treasury, the Diamond started out as a single bespoke unit but was so successful it resulted with DeBeers requesting several more. Tann's then went on to produce an altered, toned-down version of it as their standard top-of-the range safe above the Bankers and Treasury models.

    Other possible candidates:

    4- Chubb

    With such a long and prestigious history I think there must be many Chubb examples which we simply never got to hear about, especially in terms of those produced for Royal use.

    Their 'bird cage' built to secure the Ko-I-Noor (think that's how you spell it) diamond at the 1851 Great Exhibition is definitely one worthy of mention, but the overall principle it employed isn't really a 'free standing' safe as such.

    Likewise after the famous Cornhill robbery and other similar hold-ups they pioneered new secure containers for bullion and cash, but these were mostly heavy rectangular chests and strong boxes, and not really free standing safes proper.

    Chubb certainly made their mark with bespoke strong room and vault installations worldwide, but I'm not aware of any one-off ultimate safes to include here. Anyone know of any?

    5- Fichet- Le Super Fichet?

    Not sure of this one- there's some old literature floating around which might suggest this was just a very expensive top-of-the range model and not a commissioned one-off. They made a very heavy safe in the mid 1920s which I think was model 242. had a very thick stepped door and a weight of about 2500 kg- absolutely incredible for the size of the safe. Some suggest the later 'Le Super Fichet' of 1928 was a one-off improved version of the 242, but I don't know for sure. Anyone know anymore?

    There must be many others from all those European and American manufacturers, so it'd be great to hear what you guys can add from around the world

  2. #2
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    Default

    I forgot to add the original Chubb Sovereign- not to be confused with the later model of much lower grade that chubb made with the same name. The one I'm referring to was immense, ridiculously heavy, very expensive and had the QZ prefix to the serial numbers- extremely rare safes.

    I can remember the original back in the mid 1980s and our Chubb safe rep joking he'd take us all to an expensive restaurant if we sold one- I think they only made them in 2 or possibly 3 sizes, the larger one costing £15,200 in 1985 or 86.

    What separated the Chubb was it's choice of barrier material- whereas most manufacturers went with aluminium for the defensive matrix on their top models, Chubb spared no expense and used solid copper dispersed with their barrier nuggets. Hence the price and the weight of them- not quite in the same league as the giant Chatwood CB Quality perhaps, but even so the Sovereigns weighed far more than the Bankers, Treasury and the Financier model which eventually replaced it.

    Not sure if they started out as a one-off commission as the Tann Diamond did, but it's definitely a possibility and worth being mentioned as I'm sure one of you guys will know.


    Also worth a mention is the original Chubb Planet- cream or brown plastic- anyone remember them before they went euro and become encapsulated in the steel shells? That's another that might have been the result of a unique commission on the basis and grounds of floor loading capacities on upper floors in buildings. Again I'm not sure though, so would be great if one of you guys know. Probably the best safe that never was!

    Chubb's DuPont developed (I think) barrier material- Ellox as they named it, really was a major breakthrough and perhaps even one of the most significant of recent times. Here we had a material and a safe which almost seemed to defy physics- A plastic polymer impregnated with near diamond-hard chips that could put up a fight against serious drill attacks, disc cutters, explosives and thermal cutting! And it was a third of the weight of anything else being used- and plastic!

    The original uncovered plastic version- what-you-see-is-what-you-get, wasn't around for long before the euro gradings changed everything and it evolved to a VdS tested euro grader- £35,000 cash rating with just 25 mm thick walls if I remember right- and still a fraction of the weight of most equivalent safes on the market- amazing stuff.

    Last I heard it was never a big seller because of it's cost, and that it was still being made I think in Holland, under the Lips wing of Gunnebo (sorry Adrian ;~), but I think even that's all become history now.

    I remember a lengthy chat with some serious plastics experts about 20 years ago, asking them about the thermoplastic Chubb had used for the Planet. They all thought it was a wind-up- firstly they'd never heard of it, secondly they seemed to doubt everything I was telling them, and thirdly they all scratched their heads and said that there wasn't a polymer or thermoplastic in the universe that could perform as the so-called Ellox material. I just picked up my Delrin and nylon bars I'd paid for and came away bewildered but smiling- for me that just made the Chubb Planet that extra bit special

  3. #3
    Join Date
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    Country: Great Britain

    Default The 'Ultimate' safe.

    An interesting topic MaxVaultage which took me back a year or so when the safe-makers designed and built to defeat the criminal - not the test house.

    The exception could be the S.L.S. Gem which I've always believed was an ego trip on Mr. Painter's part to create the first rectangular bodied safe to attain the Underwriter's Laboratories certification in the category TX-TL60.

    This is where one of the pair went - didn't know about the other. It appeared for the first time in the Levy Safe Rating List '79 -'80 which I'll now admit was a mistake on my part as it was never going into production.

    A point about the Chatwood CB's hinges is that as the units were not for basement installation they did not need to be clenched and water resistant. Nor was the use of liquid NG considered to be a danger in this country.

    At the same time as my company acquired the four or five Chatwoods there were also some massive Chubbs of a similar protection level, one of which is still in use in an Aberdeen jewellers premises. They were very similar to the illustration but without the crane hinges.

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	Chubb ABP.jpg 
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ID:	11489Thanks for the memories.

  4. #4
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    Default

    Thanks for your reply safeman. I thought this'd be an interesting one which'd hopefully get some interesting discussion going, perhaps more will get time over Easter.

    I can't help thinking there must be some amazing examples lost in the shadows- hopefully some more will show up.

    Your correction on my SLS Gem dates reminded me of another- I didn't know the Gems were developed earlier in the late 70s, although thinking about it now it makes sense as I forgot to mention that for the Tann Diamond- around the same sort of time I think. Somewhere I've got a pile of old Locksmith Ledgers from the 70s/80s and remember the production version of the Tann aimed at the US market is mentioned in one around 1979 I think. I've also got a load of Keyways from around the same time, and although I remember some good articles on development and barrier materials I can't remember any mention of any of these. I'll have to dig them out and have another look.

    Also I made a big mistake when I said the SLS Gem featured their usual Aluramic barrier material- I should've remembered- it was actually a big step up using a mixture of copper/ceramics and stainless/ceramics- hence the weight of what was quite a dimensionally small safe.

    I can see where you're coming from when you refer to Mr. P's ego trip, but I think I can understand his thinking. If I'd been in his shoes at that time I'd have grabbed the opportunity and the whole 'unlimited' concept. Think of all the high temperature 'super-alloys' developed for jet engine turbine blades etc. Not to mention some of the ultra dense Tungsten alloys with a melting point over 6000F.

    Good job he was in charge really, as if I'd been resonsible it would have ended up 6 foot square, weighed 115 tons and had enough internal space for a mars bar.

    I can remember a few of the other safe manufactures referring to such 'ultimate safes' a few years later, saying that they also had the capability of producing an over-the-top unit offering an incredible level of resistive protection.

    How things change though- much more recent, around 10 years ago, I was talking to one of the big companies and they remarked that they did occasionally still get such requests for a one-off 'ultimate safe'. One was for a unit with half a million cash cover- if it'd had been down to me I'd have been out in the factory already making a start on it. Their reply was, with hindsight I suppose to be expected, but it did surprise me at the time- buy 5 of our grade V's and spread the contents between them! Not surprising I suppose, and it does make sense nowadays since it's all gone that way with risk management etc.

    Interesting about the Chatwood CB's- explains the basic hinges and emphasises it's conception uniquely for the CB's application.

    Also the Chubb's you mentioned. They seem pretty elusive with little information available. I've seen the crane hinged bankers before, although your picture shows a different variation with a beautifully fluted door pull and handle. perhaps the 'super' versions were one-off variations or even an early Sovereign? Interesting stuff

  5. #5
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    Default

    Somehow I am surprised but on the other hand not surprised again that you only mentioned British manufacturers

    What about other manufacturers such as the German ones? I know that both Bode Panzer and Pohlschröder produced safes that were exciptional. I also know about free standing safes that feature a Kromer Differential Lock (Garny) or even a Bode Panze Tangential. Not even to mention the Arnheim safes with their unique locking mechanisms.

    Hope you reconsider even if some of the mentioned above were mass produced.

  6. #6
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    Wow.........what's all that about Adrian..... think you may have slightly misunderstood or not thoroughly read all of this one- these are the only ones that I know of- that's why I'm asking you guys!

    That's why I put "There must be many others from all those European and American manufacturers, so it'd be great to hear what you guys can add from around the world" at the end.

    I'm convinced there must be some amazing examples out there from Arnheim, Garny and Wertheim, Scandinavian examples from the likes of Rosengrens and Kaso, and any of the big manufacturers in the USA- Mosler and Diebold etc. Not to mention Russian and Japanese manufacturers that we still never hear of in Europe. I'd be amazed to find that none of these hadn't come up with something that was way above their normal production safes.

    That's exactly why I'm asking everyone to hopefully get some world-wide input.
    And, with your VdS knowledge and interest in Garny and S J Arnheim, I was in fact, hoping you'd come up with a few more!

    BTW you'll upset our French buddies implying that Fichet are British......
    Last edited by Huw Eastwood; 17-04-14 at 03:11 PM.

  7. #7
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    I must have misunderstood you sorry Max

    Yes, Fichet is French, ooopps

    I will show a picture of an old Garny safe this evening, it is from a book and I have no idea where the safe is now. A good friend and safe collector from my area has some very interesting safes but most of them are not reachable at this very moment. Maybe I can convince him to do a video on them someday! (Hopefully I can, for the sake of history)

  8. #8
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    Country: United States

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    Definitely a one-off, how about the Mosler safe that was built to hold the US constitution, bill of rights, and declaration of independence? It opened at the top and a pantograph would raise/lower the display case. It may no longer be in use, somewhere I read that security was completely revamped after 9/11. Mosler also built a model of it which was shown at various places; where is that model now?

  9. #9
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    yep- thanks wylk that's a true one-off and got to be worthy of mention. In a similar class as the Koh-I-Noor diamond cage/safe I would say, as it's a safe/system designed to display and then lower the contents into a sort of top opening safe or chest- not a true free standing safe as such, but a one-off masterpiece that's made to protect something as priceless as the US constitution has to get a mention

    I'm hoping that if it has been laid-up redundant for some time, that it's being well preserved or even better, on display somewhere in one of the big museums. Same with the Koh-I-Noor cage, I would hope they're still around as realistically they're both far more important and prestigious than the manufacturers 'ultimate' offerings I'm seeking here.

    I'm still thinking that Mosler or one of the big US manufacturers must have made a no-holds barred monster at some time or other? the development of the cast cannonballs and the Corliss types led to some massive examples. Whereas Britain only saw a couple of round door safes, the US seemed to follow on the style into more recent times with the round door money chests. I'm convinced there's got be something- round or rectangular, that was made thicker and heavier than the rest

  10. #10
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    Default Ultimate Bling Rosengrens.

    What would George Price have to say about this embellishment?

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	Rosengrens..jpg 
Views:	600 
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ID:	11548It's certainly not a worthy candidate in the security stakes but it might help get things started.

    You're right about the Tann Diamond date. I remember one having been attacked at Holborn Circus in Oct.1978.

    They had problems with their oxy-acetylene and had to revert to a disc cutter but got absolutely nowhere.

    You are also absolutely correct regarding the Insurance Underwriter's requirement for splitting the risk.

    Pleased to hear you are enjoying the Price Catalogue.

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